Bolton Valley, VT 03MAR2021

An image showing ski tracks in powder snow below the Timberline Chairlift at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
An image of fresh powder snow in front of our house in Waterbury, Vermont after a quick overnight dump of nearly half a foot
We picked up a quick half foot of champagne powder at our house last night, with water content in the 1.5 to 3.0% H2O range, prompting a quick trip up to the mountain today to make a few turns.

I had just a bit of time to stop in at Bolton Valley for some turns on my way in to Burlington today, so I visited Timberline to see how the conditions were faring with the addition of the fresh powder.  We expected to get at least an inch or two, but when we picked up roughly 3 inches at the house last night in less than an hour, and had close to a half foot by this morning, it seemed it was worth a trip to the hill.

My plan was to hit some low-angle stuff on my fat skis, and that was indeed about the only terrain that offered up bottomless turns today.  Anything above that angle and you were hitting the subsurface – and that subsurface snow on anything that hadn’t been groomed is indeed loud.  Moderate angle turns were still decent with that new snow to push back on, but the low-angle powder was the best.  I had some nice turns on the mellow inclines of Villager and Spur in the fresh snow.  Groomed terrain was also pretty nice where they’d been able to till up the old stuff and get some new snow into it, although that depended on the time they’d groomed.  Some spots were groomed before the new snow fell, so it was powder on top of that.  The resort was being cautious and hadn’t even open the ungroomed terrain today, and that was probably wise, since the powder made it dangerous in some cases by simply hiding the moonscape below.

“I think they had reported about a half foot of new snow in the morning report, but I was generally finding 6-8” in my depth checks in the 1,500’ – 2,500’ elevation range. I see they’re reporting 9” in the past 48 hours at this point.”

I think they had reported about a half foot of new snow in the morning report, but I was generally finding 6-8” in my depth checks in the 1,500’ – 2,500’ elevation range.  I see they’re reporting 9” in the past 48 hours at this point.

My boys headed up for some turns in the afternoon, and my younger son said it was pretty hilarious in that “It was like skiing powder, but still skiing on the base.”  We were talking tonight at dinner about how what they skied was literally the antithesis of “bottomless powder”.  I guess one could call that “bottomful powder” in that line of terminology.  “Dust on crust” also gets that point across, although I typically don’t think of 6-8” of snow when I think of dust.  With those snow ratios in the range of 30 to 1 or even 70 to 1, and the temperature cycling that the existing snow had seen, I knew it was going to be pretty much a “dust on crust” setup.  But with a half foot of snow, at least it’s more of a “Northern Greens” sort of dust on crust experience.

In any event, it was a good aesthetic refresher for the pack both down at the house and up on the hill, and hopefully we’ll have a bit more to add in the next couple of days.

Bolton Valley, VT 27FEB2021

An image of sidecountry terrain with powder near Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
I was quite surprised to find bottomless powder and a lack of crust out there on the mountain today as I made some sidecountry explorations off the Wilderness Chair.

I gotta say, the turns were really nice out there today.

Ty and Dylan had hit the mountain on Wednesday and reported nice soft conditions thanks to some warming temperatures, but then E was out Thursday night and said the snow was quite hard and icy, at least on piste where she had been skiing on the main mountain.  I figured that made sense with temperatures cooling back down, and that’s what I thought would be the theme out there on the mountain today.

But there was also all that great snow that PF reported on from Thursday as well, which was at least 8” up above 2,000’, and Chasing Flakes said it was feeling like 10”+ at Jay Peak.  It was hard to know what to think, and I was somewhat ambivalent about skiing today.  But then while I was working on the computer this morning, I checked the Bolton snow report, saw that they’d picked up 6” in the past 48 hours, and read this text in their detailed report:

“Happy Saturday, Boltonites! Today is a great day to get some snow under your feet. We have 38 groomed trails for you this morning and tons of fresh snow still hiding in the woods. Yesterday afternoon there were sightings of 6 inch stashes of powder still in Sleepy Hollow woods and Bolton Outlaw woods!”

That sounded just a bit too good to pass up, and it tipped the scales to get me to head up to the hill.

An image of snow on the roof of the hotel in the Village at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
Enjoying some of the interesting snowy views up in the Bolton Valley Village today

We’d been getting snow this morning at the house, but it had just started to transition over to mixed precipitation while I was getting ready to head to the mountain in the early afternoon.  The precipitation was generally sprinkles of light rain as I headed up to the Bolton Valley Access Road and eventually changed over to sleet as I rode the Wilderness Double Chair and got up near 3,000’.  During my second run, the mixed precipitation decided to change back to snow, and there was a nice period with some big fat flakes coming down.

“…I was pleasantly surprised to find all that bottomless snow out there today. I was thus able to probe the depth of the entire snowpack, and was typically getting depths of 30-40” in the 2,500’ – 3,000’ elevation range.”

Bolton definitely got in on that Thursday snow, and I think my wife must have just been on those wind scoured trails on the front face of the main mountain, because that’s not at all what I experienced at Wilderness.  The groomed slopes were quiet, and the off piste was covered with up to a foot of dense powder.  That seems like more fresh snow than there really should have been based on the snow report, so I’m not sure what to think.  I also couldn’t even find any signs of crust below the most recent snows, so I’m not sure what to think about that either.  I probed all over the place in the 2,000’ to 3,000’ elevation range, and the only real crust I found was a bit of sun crust on the surface of the snow in a couple of exposed areas.  Maybe this was one of those setups where the new snow comes in, starts out wet, and bonds to any crust below to sort of remove the demarcation of that layer a bit.  Whatever the case, I was pleasantly surprised to find all that bottomless snow out there today.  I was thus able to probe the depth of the entire snowpack, and was typically getting depths of 30-40” in the 2,500’-3,000’ elevation range.  That makes decent sense, with the snowpack now at 55” on Mansfield at 3,700’.

An image snowing the Branches area of the backcountry network at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
Out in the Branches area of the Bolton Valley Backcountry Network today

I spent my entire session at Wilderness this afternoon, and the Wilderness sidecountry and nearby backcountry terrain have actually seen a decent amount of skier traffic.  Seeing that, and being alone with plenty of time to explore whatever I wanted, I decided to go a bit farther afield, hitting a lot of terrain beyond White Rabbit, Snow Hole, and Jamie’s.  Being on mid fat Tele gear, I figured I’d just see where my travels took me in search of untracked powder, and if I ended up on the backcountry network, I’d just skate my way back to the Wilderness Chair as needed.  It actually ended up being a bit of a revelation with regard to traveling in that area, because on my first run, I hit Gardiner’s Lane, and then simply followed it until I came to the junction with Snow Hole.  All it took was probably 60 seconds to herring bone up to the Snow Hole return to the Wilderness Chair, so as long as you’re on something with good mobility like reasonably light Tele gear, you can easily return to the base of the Wilderness Chair.  I even discovered a new area in my explorations today called “Branches” off to the right of Snow Hole.  I guess people are always putting in their own little areas out on the backcountry network, so I don’t know how long that’s been around, but it’s always fun to find new areas for skiing that you didn’t know about.

Big Jay & Big Jay Basin, VT 20FEB2021

An image showing a skin track through Big Jay Basin near Jay Peak Ski Resort in Vermont, with large areas of nicely spaced trees for glade skiing in powder
An image of a road sign for Route 100 in Vermont during a bout of February snow
Throughout my ski tour in the Jay Peak backcountry today, as well as my drive, snowfall obscured the sun and frequently made visibility quite low.

Earlier this week when Winter Storm Uri hit the area, mixed precipitation pushed pretty far north, and we even got a bit of it up here in Northern Vermont.  That put at least a mild crust atop the snow in our immediate area, but reports I’d been seeing indicated that the mixed precipitation really hadn’t made it up to Jay Peak.  That seemed like the perfect excuse to get out of town for a few turns in the Jay Peak area backcountry, and while it’s not just up the hill like Bolton is, it’s still pretty convenient because it’s only about an hour away up Route 100.

The skiing held even more promise today because we’re currently in the midst of another system, Winter Storm Viola, which dropped over 3 inches of 1.3% H2O champagne at the house as of this morning.  The resorts were reporting a few inches of new snow as well, and it was expected to continue snowing throughout the day and into the overnight.

An image of heavy snowfall at a parking area for access to the Jay Peak backcountry in Vermont
The snowfall was quite heavy at times today, including a the Route 242 parking area when I was starting my tour.

My drive up toward the  Jay Peak area gave me a chance to see what had happened with respect to accumulations from Winter Storm Viola thus far.  The Froude Numbers have been forecast to be relatively low, meaning that the western slopes were more likely to pick up accumulations than areas east of the spine, and indeed my travels showed that there have definitely been some notable differences in snowfall around the area.  The rounds of fluff we’ve been getting here along the spine at our house have covered up the old snow pretty well, and monitoring that aesthetic during my travels today turned out to be a decent way to see who’d recently gotten snow.  Heading east from our place, accumulations definitely dropped off toward the Waterbury Village area, and indeed, all along through the east slope towns of Waterbury Center, Stowe, and Morrisville, there really hadn’t been much new snow that I could see.  Either that, or what’s fallen had sublimated and disappeared quickly off the snow banks.  I’m sure accumulations increase as one heads westward up the mountain road and Mt. Mansfield, but down in Stowe Village, I could see that they need a refresher.  There was still light snow falling in all those east side towns, but once I left Morrisville and rose up into the Hyde Park area, the increase in snowfall intensity was obvious.  That continued right on through Eden.  The snowfall was squally, and quite heavy at times, and I was continually having to turn on my headlights and fogs when I’d get into those more intense areas of snowfall.  That increased snowfall definitely showed itself with accumulations – up in that area, all the roadside snowbanks were covered up with a solid coating of new snow.  I’d say the snow was in general a bit less through Belvidere and Montgomery Center, but once I headed toward the pass on Route 242… well, we know what happens up there.  Even from just a quick glance at the side of the road, it was obvious that even down at the roadside elevations, a lot more snow had fallen than I’d seen anywhere else on my drive.

An image of a tractor pulling a sled in the snow with the word "KIND" spelled out among midwinter snow in the Waterbury Center area of Vermont
Today’s drive yielded lots of midwinter Vermont views, including this one in Waterbury Center.

As we’d done on our last backcountry ski trip in the area, I parked at the lower access lot on the east side of the pass to start my tour.  The elevation there is about 1,500’ and right from the start of the tour, I was finding 8-12” of new champagne atop the older snow.  Above 2,000’ there was 12-16” of accumulation.

An image of a ski slope in the Jay Peak backcountry of Vermont with a ski measurement pole showing a snow depth of nearly 40 inches
Finding a snowpack depth of nearly 40 inches as I make my way up through one of the glades in Big Jay Basin

I was also checking snowpack depths along my tour, and I was already getting 40” snowpack readings at just 2,000’.  On top of that, it snowed the whole time I was there – most of the time it was what I’d call moderate, probably in the 0.5”/hr range, but there were also stints where it bumped up to the 1”/hr range.  The snowfall was typically large, upslope-style flakes, which can make it a little tough to gauge the snowfall rate because they just stack up so fast.

It’s firsthand experiences like this though that have me rolling my eyes every time somebody gets going with the smack talk about Jay Peak and their snow reporting.  My actual experiences reveal again, and again, and again that they really get a ridiculous amount of snow in that area.

My ski tour had me on Big Jay itself, and in the Big Jay Basin area today, and that southeast side of Jay Peak really seemed to be the epicenter for this shot of continuing snowfall.  I can’t say when all of it fell, and I believe I only saw 3” new on the snow report for the resort this morning when I checked.  Reports I heard about said that the resort side of the peak didn’t pick up nearly what the east side did, so the Jay Peak cloud was dropping its bounty there.  Whatever the setup has been in terms of wind direction and Froude, etc., that Big Jay Basin area today was definitely getting hit.  Something similar was going on with Hyde Park and Eden as well, to a lesser degree of course.

An area of open terrain on one of the approach routes to Big Jay Basin in the Jay Peak backcountry of Vermont
The lower areas of the approach offer lots of open terrain for skiers returning to the parking area

Indeed, my numerous checks on the snowpack today revealed that the area definitely avoided any real crust from Winter Storm Uri, so obviously that’s going to help a lot with respect to the quality of the subsurface.  The resort reported 6-8” from that storm, and although there wasn’t a crust, that snow was still dense.  The skiing was indeed fantastic with as much as 16” of that champagne powder in that area, but compared to last weekend, one can definitely nitpick a bit on the quality of the powder skiing.  This most recent snow is so ridiculously light that it’s easy to get down to the dense Winter Storm Uri snow if you’re on more than moderate/blue pitch.  Then you get to that region of dense snow, and if you pressure hard enough, you’ll collapse that layer a bit because the powder below it is less dense.  Essentially, the snowpack’s got an upside down issue with respect to those second and third layers down.  We’re very much talking first-world powder problems here of course, but I figured it would be good to get the beta out there for anyone else thinking of heading out.  Naturally, going as fat as you can will help with respect to staying up in the champagne layer, and heck, if it dumps more tonight, that surface layer of powder will be bolstered to make it even better.

An image of some of the glades in Big Jay Basin the Jay Peak backcountry of Vermont
The glades were just everywhere in Big Jay Basin, with a skin track providing access right across the bottom.

Relative to Big Jay, I could definitely see the convenience of hitting Little Jay when coming from that lower parking lot on Route 242Last time I was up there with the family in the general Big Jay Basin area, we actually did head more toward Little Jay, and we were in that drainage between Big Jay and Little Jay.  I specifically went out today with the intention of just making turns in Big Jay Basin, but I left the option open to head up toward the main lines from Big Jay (in that general Jailbird Chute area) depending on what skin tracks were in place.  There turned out to be a well-established skin track that headed right to that area, so my plan was to continue on it until it either disappeared, or I felt that ascending on skins was getting pointless.

On today’s tour, it was somewhere above 2,000’ when I found the first obvious split in the skin track – I literally came to a “T” junction with a skin track to the left, and the other option to the right.  I was heading to the right toward Big Jay Basin, but the left option would have been a good choice for the Little Jay area.

“…right from the start of the tour, I was finding 8-12” of new champagne atop the older snow. Above 2,000’ there was 12-16” of accumulation.”

As I approached the 3,000’ elevation mark on Big Jay today, the ascent was starting to get pretty silly on skins because progress was just so slow.  It was around that point when I found myself sidestepping up a steep, narrow area between some trees where the person setting the skin track had essentially done the same.  It was basically just a ski’s width area, so you really couldn’t even make any sort of switchback.  That was the point where I knew I wasn’t going to push too much longer on the ascent.  The skin track still continued a bit farther, and I stuck with it a little while longer until the track really just became hard to follow in the packed snow of the main chute area.  I followed a skin track (perhaps the same one, perhaps not) off to climber’s right briefly before that seemed to disappear, and then I decided I would stop my ascent as soon as I found a reasonable spot for deskinning.  I side-stepped up about an extra 30 feet or so through fairly deep powder to a nice sheltered spot where I deskinned and had a snack.

I’d been there for just a few minutes when a group of five skiers, ascending on skins, appeared below me.  They said hi, and thanked me for setting the skin track.  I let them know that I was just following an old one made by others and was stopping where I was.  It seemed like they were just going to stop there as well, but they started breaking their own trail above me and continued pushing on.  I actually debated putting my skins back on and following now that someone else was breaking trail, but after watching them get maybe another 50 feet or so over the course of 5 to 10 minutes, I knew I’d made the right choice.  As a group, I think they were having fun together with respect to the challenge of trying it on skins, and that’s probably the way to approach it.

An image of deep powder snow on the steep slopes of Big Jay in the Jay Peak area backcountry of Vermont
The terrain was getting steep, and the powder quite deep as I made my way up the east face of Big Jay today

I wanted to get back down into the lower basin because the powder skiing was far better down there anyway, simply because it’s just so steep up on that face of Big Jay.  You’re not getting bottomless turns up there unless there’s 2 to 3 feet of powder.  The 12-16” of champagne was really nice up there, but you want even more for that upper terrain.  Overall it’s some fantastic steep skiing of course, but I was on fat Tele gear and planning for undisturbed powder on more blueish and blackish pitches, not semi-tracked super steeps.

So where I topped out was in the 3,000’ – 3,100’ elevation range, and I’d argue that it was already boot pack territory.  Boot packing up there would also be quite slow though because you’re pushing up very steep terrain with lots of powder.  It would be a serious slog through the snow once you were off your skis if someone hadn’t already broken trail, although you could stick to the more packed snow in some of the main chutes and that might offer some efficiency.  I don’t know how far that group of five went, but if they were going all the way to the summit at ~3,800’, it must have been a lot of work.  I’m sure one can make it up to the Big Jay summit by skinning that route, but it’s probably something to do if you’ve got a lot of time and want the challenge, it’s certainly not the efficient way to go.  I do wonder if there’s an approach from the Little Jay side that perhaps gets it done in a practical way.

A Google Earth map with GPS tracking data for a ski tour in the Jay Peak backcountry in Vermont on February 20th, 2021
A Google Earth map with GPS tracking data for today’s tour in the Jay Peak Backcountry

One definite theme out there today was a lot of visages of the sun through moderate to heavy snow with big flakes.  It was pounding snow a lot on both my tour and my drive, so it made for some nice, snowy scenes.

Bolton Valley, VT 10FEB2021

Dylan skiing powder by a small evergreen tree in the Doug's Solitude area of Bolton Valley Resort in Vermont
An image of Ty skiing through powder after Winter Storm Roland in the Doug's Solitude area of Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
Ty blasting through a bit of our surprise powder at Bolton Valley this morning.

While we haven’t really had any of those stretches this season where snowfall has really gone off the hook by Northern Greens standards, what we’ve had in the past few weeks has been a nice steady pace of snowfall from bread and butter systems intermixed with the occasional larger synoptic storm.  And that snowfall has indeed been steady – since the start of the calendar year at our house, we’ve only had four days without snowfall.  Indeed we also haven’t seen any massive blockbuster storm cycles in the area yet this season, but in many ways, it’s felt like a fairly classic Northern Greens winter period since about the start of the calendar year.  Part of the climatology here is getting those little surprises throughout the season, such as Winter Storm Roland dropping over 8 inches here, when only about half that was expected.  It’s good to take advantage of Mother Nature’s surprises when you get the chance.

An image of Dylan skiing powder in some open trees at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
Skier traffic was fairly low this morning, so we had acres and acres of powder to ourselves.

To that point, I certainly hadn’t planned to ski today.  But, with the way it was dumping huge flakes here at the house this morning, and after watching it snow 2.5” in an hour, I started to reconsider.  I checked out the Bolton Valley Base Area Webcam, saw just a whiteout of massive flakes, and that pretty much sealed the deal.  I told the boys that if we they didn’t have any meetings this morning, we definitely needed to head up to the mountain for some turns.  And so we did.

An image of Ty dropping off a ledge while powder skiing after Winter Storm Roland at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
Ty dropping one of those powdery ledges today

We just stuck to Timberline, and skier traffic was low enough that there really wasn’t any need to go anywhere else.  We started with a run on Adam’s Solitude, but spent the rest of the day in Doug’s Woods and Doug’s SolitudeBolton is reporting 12” in the past 48 hours, but we were typically finding 12-16” off piste in the areas we were skiing.  The snow was absolute champagne, definitely in line with the ~2% H2O I’d gotten from my previous three snow analyses at the house, so it skied like a dream.  The boys had fun throwing themselves off just about any stump, bump, log, tree, ledged, or cliff they found.  And, Mother Nature even decided to treat us with some sun during the morning to let us get a bit more pop out of the photos from the session.

Bolton Valley, VT 07FEB2021

An image of Dylan skiing powder from Winter Storm Peggy in the Villager Trees at Bolton Valley Resort in Vermont
An image of Ty and Dylan approaching the mid station area of the Wilderness Double Chair at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
The boys approaching the Wilderness Mid Station on one of our runs today

It had just started to snow when I headed up to Bolton Valley with the boys this afternoon for a session.  We had planned to start at Timberline, but we were surprised to find that the Timberline Quad wasn’t running.  It must have been a mechanical issue because it didn’t seem like there were any issue with the wind.

Today wasn’t the obvious powder day that yesterday was, but the snow continues to be fantastic.  We just had to travel farther afield to get into fresh stuff around the resort today, hitting areas like White Rabbit, Snow Hole, The Knob, Maria’s, various Fanny Hill Glades, etc.  The only spot on our list that we didn’t get to hit was Adam’s Solitude, since the Timberline Quad wasn’t running.

An image of Ty jumping into some untracked powder in a ski line off The Knob at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
Ty comes flying into the picture during a run through some of that deep powder off The Knob.

The powder really just keeps piling up with each round of snow, making all the untouched areas more and more bottomless.  We had on and off light snow during the afternoon that accumulated to less than an inch, but it started dumping those huge flakes when we were leaving due to approaching Winter Storm Quade, so there should be some additional accumulation tomorrow.

Bolton Valley, VT 06FEB2021

An image of Ty jumping off a ledge on skis in the Wood's Hole area of Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
An image of ski tracks on a powder morning after Winter Storm Peggy on the Spell Binder trails at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
Early tracks and some sunshine on Spell Binder this morning

With Bolton Valley reporting 8” in the past 24 hours due to various rounds of snow from Winter Storm Peggy, we headed up for a session at the opening of Timberline this morning.  It was bright and sunny when we got there, but before long it clouded up and flakes started to appear.  For the rest of the morning it was generally cloudy with a bit of snow and the occasional appearance of the sun.

My depth checks in the 1,500’ – 2,500’ range revealed new snow depths in the 6-9” range, which was definitely consistent with the snow report.  The powder was pretty dry (3-5% H2O) so the new stuff alone wasn’t quite bottomless on piste on steep terrain, but it skied really well.

An image of Erica skiing powder from Winter Storm Peggy in the Wood's Hole area at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
Erica dropping through some powder today in the Wood’s Hole area

We ended up spending the entire morning and into the early afternoon at Timberline, starting off with powder runs on the trails, and gradually moving into the trees.  We hit some favorites that we had yet visited this season, like the KP Glades, Lost Girlz, and the Corner Pocket Glades.  Anywhere off piste that hasn’t seen heavy traffic, the new snow just bolstered the depth of that already bottomless snowpack that’s out there.

Bolton Valley, VT 03FEB2021

An image of a fence covered with snow from various winter storms, including Winter Storm Orlena, near the Timberline Base Area at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
An image of snowy evergreens and ski trail signs at the Timberline Summit area at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
With the addition of last night’s burst of snow from Winter Storm Orlena, the mountains just continue to build up powder on all surfaces.

With that period of 2”/hr snows we had yesterday afternoon, I stopped in at Bolton for some runs this morning to see how the powder was skiing.  When I got there about 30 minutes after the opening of Timberline, it seemed curiously busy for Bolton Valley on a weekday morning, but I must have caught part of the initial burst of arriving skiers, because it was back to walk-on by my second run.

I was surprised to run into freezing mist and drizzle as I was heading through Bolton Flats, and that was the main precipitation type right on up to the mountain.  My experience was similar to what I’d heard from skiers at other local resorts, in that it was pretty inconsequential with respect to the overall snow quality.  It was irrelevant on the groomed terrain, and in the powder out in the open, while you could tell the layer was there, it was so thin that it just didn’t make a difference with respect to turns.  The powder overall was denser than I thought it would be with my evening snow analyses coming in roughly 5 to 6% H2O, but perhaps the freezing drizzle had its effects there in terms of compacting things a bit.  In the trees, the powder was essentially untouched by any of the mist because of the way the foliage catches most of the mist/drizzle.

While the snow was relatively unaffected by the precipitation, the biggest hassle I found with the freezing drizzle was visibility.  My goggles would glaze up pretty nicely during a lift ride.  The great solution I found was to simply pop out my lens for the lift ride (another nice benefit of magnetic lenses), stick it in my coat, and by the time I reached the top, it was thawed and clear to start another run.

“At the Timberline Base I found about 5” of new snow, and depth checks I did around the mountain in the 1,500’ – 2,500’ range revealed roughly 5-8” of accumulation.”

At the Timberline Base I found about 5” of new snow, and depth checks I did around the mountain in the 1,500’ – 2,500’ range revealed roughly 5-8” of accumulation.  I think was a bit more than what they mentioned in the snow report, but I’m currently seeing a report of 9” in the past 48 hours, so I’d say that’s pretty similar overall.

The precipitation was changing back over to snow as I was heading out, and then later in the day that next round of backside upslope finally came through to finish off the storm.

Even with that bit of freezing drizzle that came through, we really haven’t had too much weather to specifically knock down the fluff or push the snow off objects, so it just continues to stack up on various surfaces and looks quite scenic.

Bolton Valley Nordic & Backcountry, VT 31JAN2021

An image of snow-covered branches overhanging a ski trail after Winter Storm Nathaniel on the Nordic and Backcountry Network at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
An image of snow covering a stump in the Nordic & Backcountry Network at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
Out on my ski tour today at Bolton Valley, I found that there was still lots of powder stuck to everything.

I hadn’t been up to the mountain for a couple of days while I waited for the arctic hounds to head out of town, but things were definitely warming up this afternoon, so I hit the Bolton Valley Nordic & Backcountry Network for a tour.  Temperatures were in the mid-teens F, and with brilliant sunshine and no wind, it was definitely getting much more comfortable out there.

I wanted a relatively quick tour and hadn’t yet visited the trails on the western side of the network below the North Ridge this season, so I headed out in that direction.  At the 2,000’ elevation around the Village I was quite consistently getting settled snowpack depths right around 24”, and in the 2,300’ – 2,400’ elevation near the top of my route, I got a 26” measurement.  Although that’s not especially deep, there’s a lot of liquid in the snowpack, so everything is surprisingly well covered and there aren’t any major ground obstacles to worry about.  Even steep terrain like C Bear Woods and the Holden’s Hollow Glades had plenty of coverage.  I’m sure there would be a few coverage issues on steep terrain for lift-served levels of skier traffic, but with just backcountry traffic, there’s more than enough coverage to ski everything without concern.  Although it had only been a couple of days since the last snows, there had actually been a pretty good amount of traffic on the main routes I traveled, so I had to go off the edges for fresh powder.

A map showing GPS tracking data on Google Earth for a ski tour on the Nordic & Backcountry Network at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
The GPS track of today’s ski tour on the Bolton Valley Nordic & Backcountry Network superimposed onto a Google Earth map

There has definitely been some settling of all the fluff in the forest over the past few days, but there’s still a lot of snow covering everything.  It will be interesting to see what the snow from this next storm does in terms of sticking to what’s out there already.

Bolton Valley, VT 28JAN2021

An image showing heavy snowfall on the back side of Winter Storm Nathaniel as it interacts with the Green Mountains and drops snow on the Timberline area of Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
An image of the base station of the Timberline Quad Chairlift through heavy snowfall on the back side of Winter Storm Nathaniel in January at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
A view of the base station of the Timberline Quad as heavy snowfall greets me upon my arrival at the mountain today

We had snow here at the house most of the morning, and it was generally light, but at times it would pick up with a burst of intensity with larger flakes.  Toward the afternoon, the snowfall became a bit more persistent, and we were having longer periods with the large flakes, so it started getting to the point where I was wondering how much the mountains were getting.  As it was snowing more heavily here, I checked out the Bolton Valley Base Area Webcam and saw what looked like really heavy snowfall, so I decided to hit the mountain for a couple of runs.  Indeed, the local radar showed that another push of moisture was right on the doorstep as well, so that held the potential for additional snow.

A weather radar image of snow pushing eastward from the Champlain Valley into the spine of the Northern Green Mountains on the back side of Winter Storm Nathaniel
Another pulse of moisture is set to push into the spine of the Green Mountains today as I head up to Bolton Valley for a few runs.

The radar didn’t look that outrageous in terms of snowfall intensity, but I got up to Timberline and the snowfall was very heavy, probably 1-2”/hr with visibility of a few hundred feet.  It was hard to tell how much had fallen recently, but I was finding 4-6” in many areas on the trails since the previous grooming.  In any event, it was definitely a mini powder day up there, with that 4-6” easy to find essentially anywhere that hadn’t been skied recently.

“It was hard to tell how much had fallen recently, but I was finding 4-6” in many areas on the trails since the previous grooming.”

Very steep or windblown areas on piste definitely need another synoptic storm or two before they’re in prime shape, but the snow has continued to build up this week in the off piste areas.  In areas that haven’t been skied in the past week or two, you’re essentially looking at 30” of unconsolidated snow down to elevations as low as 2,500’ now.  I made a trip through Maria’s and I was finding that depth consistently.  There is some dense snow in there form the front end of Winter Storm Malcolm, but since we haven’t had any major thaws in more than a month, there’s no layer in the snowpack that is fully solidified.  My depth checks just went right down through the 30” to what I suspect is the ground, or perhaps a base of a few inches of old base snow depending on the location.  You really need at least moderate pitch to ski these areas because you’re sinking too deep for shallow slopes.  I was on midfats today, so fat skis would help, but pitch is still going to be necessary.

I hadn’t been out on the mountain since my tour on Saturday, and certainly wanted to get some exercise, but the continued snow we had today, and the chance to beat the arctic hounds that are coming in for the next couple of day, definitely made the timing right.

Bolton Valley Nordic & Backcountry, VT 23JAN2021

A snowy scene with a skier and cars from the Village area of Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont after some January snowstorms
An image of a snow-covered sign indicating one of the entrances to the backcountry and trail information at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
The recent upslope snows were seen covering and clinging to everything today while I was out on a backcountry ski tour at Bolton Valley.

The consistent snows and temperatures we’ve had over the past several days had me pretty certain that the snow quality was there for lift-served skiing today, but the arctic hounds coming in on those northwest winds led me to go touring instead.  When I saw projected highs in the single digits F for Bolton Valley today, there was no way I wanted to sit still on the lifts in the wind vs. generating my own heat down in the protection of the forest.

I got up to the Village around midday, and temperatures were indeed in the mid-single digits F as the forecast had suggested.  Between all the backcountry touring and Nordic folks that I saw, there were plenty of people out on the lower trails, but farther out into the higher trails by the Bryant Cabin, I saw probably a handful of groups. Overall, you could tell by the vibe that people felt it was great weather for these types of activities.

An image of a snow-covered evergreen and house after a week of January snows in the Village area at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
Snowy scenes were everywhere today around the Bolton Valley Village.

The additional 4 inches of fresh champagne that the resort had just picked up really served to top off the already crazy levels of fluff that covered everything.  I saw some great images of the recent snows as soon as I arrived in the Village, so before gearing up for my tour, I took a quick walk around the Village and grabbed some scenic shots.  Once I started my tour and got into the forest, the amount of snow on all surfaces was just amazing – it was caked so heavily on the trees that you were surrounded by it on all sides.  Starting up the Bryant Trail was like walking into some sort of white cathedral.

I made depth measurements of the snowpack during my tour, and I found generally 26-27” around the 2,000’ level, and many spots that are getting dangerously close to 40” up near 3,000’.  That’s pretty consistent with what the Mt. Mansfield Stake is showing.  The powder skiing was great, although we could still use another storm or two just to push the snowpack depth past that 40” benchmark.

A Google Earth map with GPS tracking data for a ski tour on the Nordic and Backcountry network at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
A Google Earth map showing GPS tracking data from today’s tour on the Bolton Valley Nordic and Backcountry Network

At the start of my tour off Heavenly Highway I was on some steep, 30+-degree slopes, and I was setting off sloughs that definitely spoke to the relative snowpack instability from the continuous day after day after day of snows without consolidation.  I was perfectly safe where I was the very dense forest, but I immediately though about how I wouldn’t want to be exposed in spots like the ravines of the Presidentials.  So I guess it wasn’t entirely surprising when I discovered posts in the American Weather New England Skiing Thread about slides in Tuckerman.